A black comedy about two nineteenth century grave robbers, who find a lucrative business providing cadavers for an Edinburgh medical school.


John Landis
1 nomination. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Bill Bailey ... Hangman
Tom Wilkinson ... Doctor Robert Knox
Michael Smiley ... Patterson
Tim Curry ... Doctor Monro
Paul Davis ... Patient
Christian Brassington ... Charles
Gabrielle Downey Gabrielle Downey ... Mad Maggie
Stuart McQuarrie ... Magistrate
Simon Pegg ... William Burke
Andy Serkis ... William Hare
Mike Goodenough Mike Goodenough ... Aggrieved Customer
Jessica Hynes ... Lucky
Robert Fyfe ... Old Donald
Robert Willox Robert Willox ... Gravediggers' Bouncer
David Schofield ... Fergus


Based on the true story about the famous murderers, this movie follows the hapless exploits of William Burke (Simon Pegg) and William Hare (Andy Serkis) as they fall into the highly profitable business of providing cadavers for the medical fraternity in nineteenth century Edinburgh, Scotland, then the center of medical learning. The one thing they were short of was bodies.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


They're making a killing. See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for some sexual content, disturbing images and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


This was the last feature film in which Edinburgh born actor and comedian Ronnie Corbett appeared in. See more »


The (Royal) Lyceum Theatre, referenced in the film, did not exist in 1828 as it was not built until 1883. See more »


William Burke: Six years in the Donegal Militia I don't get a scratch. Three hours as a grave robber I get shot in the arse.
See more »

Crazy Credits

This is a true story. Except for the parts that are not. See more »


Version of El quinto jinete: El ladrón de cadáveres (1975) See more »


Hallelujah Chorus
By George Frideric Handel
See more »

User Reviews

"Men like us. Make our own luck."
16 June 2012 | by lost-in-limboSee all my reviews

In recent times John Landis has somewhat been in the wilderness in delivering feature length films (as he has been sticking to TV shows or documentaries with his last film coming out in 1998), but the British produced "Burke and Wills" was a welcoming return to the comedy sub- genre. So another attempt at this infamous story of Edinburgh's most infamous murderers? Where Landis takes a horrific legendary tale of corpse snatching, mass murdering and scientific medicine to make a genuinely humorous and fruitful black comedy led by the animated performances of Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis, Isla Fisher and Tom Wilkinson as Dr Robert Knox. Edinburgh, 1825. Burke and Hare are two cohorts looking to make a quid, where they discover they're on a gold mine when they come about a dead body which one doctor Knox would pay very well for his work. To come across more the two arrange a series of deadly accidents, but while easy at first with the money coming in they begin to realise it's a lot harder to set in motion and soon a downward spiral begins. It's conventional in its laughs and very much has Landis signature touches throughout. From references to cameos and then the visual slap-stick gags. Period setting, costumes and set-designs are richly detailed. The at death's door story is sharp and characterised by it's punchy script, but it can languish in some wearing sub-plots that simply go round in circles and you feel it could gone a little more further in its approach of the material. Nonetheless it perfectly captures the inner struggle of right and wrong of one of its protagonist, the ironic chain of events that would follow and it's a fun enterprise with the perfectly nailed buddy combination between Pegg and Serkis. Watching these two together scheming were the best moments of the film. While their actions are appalling, you can't help but find them appealing. Also co-starring is Tim Curry, Jessica Hynes (who's enthusiasm stands-out), Michael Smiley, Ronnie Corbett and Bill Bailey contributing to the narration as the hangmen. Then you got the likes of Christopher Lee, Paul Whitehouse, Ray Harryhausen and Jenny Agutter in bit parts.

"This is thirsty work"

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Release Date:

9 September 2011 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Burke and Hare See more »


Box Office


GBP7,500,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$947, 11 September 2011

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

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